Fall 2014 - LBST 330 D400

Selected Topics in Labour Studies (3)

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 2 – Dec 1, 2014: Wed, 9:30 a.m.–12:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    Strongly recommended: LBST 101 and/or 301.



The study of issues related to work and/or trade unions not offered in regular courses. Students who have completed special temporary topics course LBST 389 cannot complete this course for further credit when it is offered as "Studying Labour Through Film."


Slavery, many claim, is not a thing of the past. Contrary to the expectations of economists, policy-makers and political theorists, contemporary processes of capitalist globalization have resulted in the growth, rather than obsolescence, of unfree labour.  Concerns about child, debt-bonded, and forced labour have come to figure centrally in analyses of global commodity production, while domestic servitude and sexual exploitation – widely associated with human trafficking - are understood to affect millions of (mostly) women and children worldwide.  Transnational bodies like International Labour Organisation (ILO), the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) have been central to the articulation of these concerns and the shaping of political responses to them; at the same time, there has been a massive increase in the number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) campaigning against ‘modern slavery’. This course seeks to understand these phenomena from a labour perspective, focusing on workers and labour markets in the global political economy. We will address the questions of why the deepening and expansion of international markets for commodities and labour have given rise to, or resurrected, the most severe forms of exploitation captured in the term ‘unfree labour,’ and ask how far policy responses go in addressing the roots of this abuse.


Students will learn:                

  1. How free and unfree labour are conceptualized and defined contemporary market societies.                   
  2. How current understandings of forced labour and modern slavery relate to historical forms of slavery and struggles for emancipation.             
  3. About the relationship between the unfreedom in labour markets and the social construction of categories of difference such as race, gender and class.  
  4. How states and capital construct the vulnerability of migrant workers to extreme exploitation.                
  5. About the contemporary politics of trafficking, forced labour and modern slavery.


  • Attendance and participation: 10%
  • Policy report and presentation 15%
  • Mid-term exam: 30%
  • Research proposal with annotated bibliography: 10%
  • Final paper: 35%


This is a reading-intensive course. Class participation is required, and the format of the course combines lectures, seminar-style discussions, student presentations, visiting speakers, and film screenings. 


All students are expected to read SFU’s policies concerning academic honesty and student conduct [S 10.01 and S10.04]. The policies can be read at this website: www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student.html



There are no overall required texts for this course, but there will be required readings each week. We will read a variety of texts from online news stories to policy documents to journal articles. Students are expected to do all of the required reading every week, and to come to class prepared to discuss what they have read.  The full list of required and recommended readings will be made available in the full syllabus at the start of term.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://students.sfu.ca/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html